Friday, 19 August 2011

Strada Handbuilt Wheels H+ Son SL42 - deep section clinchers

I recently took delivery of a pair of SL42 clincher wheels which I had had built using a redundant pair of lightweight hubs by those helpful folks at Strada. Here is what I told Jonathan about the rim and wheel build at the time -
“Just a quick email by way of feedback about the H+ Son SL42s: They have been eliciting admiring responses where ever I go – they look very fast and stylish, even on my cross bike. Whilst the weight is not particularly low, this isn’t immediately apparent. On shorter climbs, their stiffness more than compensates for any extra weight and they feel very fast. Once up to speed on the flat they roll along really nicely, in the same way a deep section carbon does. Where I have been particularly impressed is on descents – they feel so solid and dependable and I have been enjoying faster descents on my usually bumpy local roads whilst feeling really safe. The build of quality is of course fantastic – they’ve been battered around on rough tracks and cobbles as is usual for me and remain perfectly true."

By way of update, these have become my favourite road wheels of all time. Yes, better than tubs even. They were absolutely superb on the flat, windswept terrain around Dungeness, and despite being quite a deep rim seemed remarkably unaffected by cross winds and the sudden gusts that were de rigeur for riding around there. Moreoever, commutes off the moors into my hometown on exposed and gusty main roads that can feel quite dicey have felt reassuringly secure. They catch sidewinds and gusts less than a 30mm pair of clinchers I have previously used, or at least behave more predictably when they do.
The braking surface when new is anodised black with the rest of the rim. Virgin rims therefore look for all the world like full carbon rims. This has predictably worn off now, but the overall aesthetics aren't spoilt - they simply look like a lot of the carbon clinchers with alloy braking surfaces that are out there. Much bling for much less buck.
I particularly like the striking Strada graphics on the rims that look amazing when rolling along and reflected in shop windows. Beware parked cars.....
They remain, still, micron true - something that has hugely impressed me having used similar style mass produced wheels which have not. 
They would be good too for circuit/crit racing as they are super tough and somewhat less fragile than your expensive 50mm carbon offerings...
More to come on the Strada Major Toms too as the cross season gets underway in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Hiatus. Or a lack thereof.

The break in posts recently is not indicative of a lack of activity, training wise. Far from it. It represents a change of venue and distance from a PC of any sort, in the form of a welcome family holiday in the far south-eastern corner of England, not far from Dungeness.

And therein lay an immediate issue - the terrain. Or rather lack of it, given the express need for Peaks training.

I needn't have worried - what the drained marshland lacked in contours it made up for in wind. Of the incessant, blasting, reducing you to a grovel variety. To this rider, used to the consistently vertiginous East Lancashire hills and moors it was quite simply, a delight.

I had previously heard traditional explanations for the late 20th Century success of Dutch climbers in Grand Tours attributed to the strength gained from training on the flat, in constant winds, and how that is akin to the kind of efforts required on long climbs. And I can vouch for its truth now. After a few days of short sharp rides, mostly into the infernal wind, my legs were battered. An even with the wind behind, the temptation to use it and pedal hard was irresistible leading to several spinning out returns to our holiday home. Note to self: cross gearing of 46x12 is insufficient, even on the flat, when the wind is blowing from behind at 30mph or so.

The Marshes around Rye, New Romney and Dungeness also happen to be peculiarly beautiful, albeit in a slightly desolete way. Flat, windswept and sparsely featured, they are anything but boring with the desert like area of Dungeness popular with bird watchers, photographers, alternative communities and a ruddy great nuclear power station.

The sense of space and sky was at times quite intense, alluding to what it must be like to ride through some of the great plains areas of the US and Canada. I took a lot of black and white photos of sky and horizon, fascinated with the everchanging cloud patterns. Little farms, isolated houses and shacks also peppered the route around the marshes, with some of the back lanes taking wonderfully quirky routes around the network of drainage ditches.

Running? Nil. Cross riding? Nil. No matter, the training was good and hard in the wind, fun out of it and I feel replenished after not just a holiday, but the break from tough terrain. And as a consequence, I'm all the keener to get back into the swing of things Peak like.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mixing it up

18 July - 31 July

Consolidation. 'Building the engine' as Greg calls it. I've been plugging away with some threshold/sweetspot efforts, some Bull Hill reps, some easy riding and a bit more running. Finished off this period with a custom designed Peaks session - a double hill reps brick session.

In previous years in the Peaks I have been a cramps sufferer. Now I know pretty much everyone gets cramp in the Peaks at some point, but we are talking cramp on the road out of Ingleton that lasts till the finish, lying in the Penyghent track unable to move cramp, cramp that has caused almost complete meltdown and a grovel to the finish. Admittedly, last years sub 4hr ride was largely cramp free so I may have found ways of reducing its pernicious effects, but the spectre of cramp still haunts my preparation and race each year.

I've thought about this long and hard. Now the scientific literature is less than conclusive on the causes and even the remedies for cramp, but in a Peaks context, I think I know what does me in and reduces me to a wooden, immobile wreck - the constant change in effort.

I don't mean going up and down hills, that isn't too bad in and of itself. No, I mean the constant change between bike and run, between up and down and bike and run and between saddle and foot and saddle etc etc etc..... It just does me in for some reason.

So, by way of remedy I have set about reproducing this in training to a large degree. Obviously long rides that mix on and off road and carrying and riding are important, but more than this I am trying to get my legs used to the change whilst working hard. Cue the most brutal session known to Peakers outside of Bull Hill..... the double brick.

I have a lovely tough climb just at the top of the road, soon to be in 100 Climbs Vol2, and it fits nicely into a little circuit with 5-6mins of climbing, a steep descent, some rolling and then back into the climb:

a few reps on this for around 25mins of hilly riding and straight into the running shoes for...

supersteep hill reps in the woods behind the house (think Simon Fell steep). 15mins of that till feeling slightly giddy, then repeat the bike loop and the running reps as before.

Result? Broken legs after just two sets and about 1hr 20mins training time. If I can face it, 3 sets will be awesome. I think.

By way of fuelling the anticipation, Greg reminded of this great film that encapsulates last years Peaks very nicely: